NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is installing bicycle racks around the city and creating 15 more miles of bike routes, officials said Tuesday.
“We’re going to double the amount of bike lanes in our city in with one project, that’s going to be a grant funded by this Connecticut State Department of Transportation. And that will happen later this summer,” Director of Transportation, Mobility, and Parking James Travers said at the unveiling of a Washington Street bicycle rack.
“We will be placing bike racks which don’t exist right now. The reason we’re doing that is so that when somebody wants to ride their bike down here, they’ll have a secure and safe place to leave their bicycle,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “And we have one at the South Norwalk train station, we’ll be placing them at different locations. And it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for quite some time.”
The unveiling of a bike rack “in the heart of SoNo” was done to support the businesses, Travers said.
“Bringing bikes into a downtown core like this is, is a boon for the businesses in the area,” said Norwalk Bike/Walk Commission Chairman Tanner Thompson.
Economic benefits have been “well studied,” and an example is a recent project in Seattle, he said. Bike lanes made 65th Street more accessible for cyclists and “in the ensuing year, the sales on that corridor tripled,” Thompson said. While you might be thinking of downtown Seattle “with skyscrapers and stuff, this is a mix, a small mixed-use core surrounded by multifamily and single family housing within walking distance. So we’re not talking about a dense metropolis, we’re talking about an area very similar to SoNo.”
“I’m really excited to see more bike racks right here in Washington Street,” said Brad Kerner, owner of the nearby EcoEvolution marketplace. “If this triples my revenue, I will come give you a big hug and kiss.”
Eric Sell, owner of Affogato on Washington Street, said the new bike rack isn’t just “really ascetically pleasing” but “the spread of residences in this area that are not necessarily walkable but bikable is just a huge opportunity for a business like mine, where people want to sit and not worry about parking and have a more casual experience.”
“One of the biggest factor that determines whether somebody is going to choose to take a bike when they need to get somewhere is how safe it’s going to be for them,” Thompson said. “As Jim alluded to, the city is working hard on dedicating more space for people on bikes with these bike lanes that are getting painted soon. Also with extensions of trails like the Norwalk River Valley Trail, that is in progress right now.”
“As we continue to add more bike lanes in the city, and as biking becomes more accessible to more people, we need to make sure that we have an opportunity for people to safely secure their bikes at their destination,” Travers said.
“When somebody chooses to ride their bike down here to Washington Street, instead of driving, they’re contributing less CO2 to the atmosphere, less particulate emissions, less microplastics going into our watershed, a lot less noise,” Thompson said. “… A lot of people who get around on their bikes, that’s the reality is that that’s their primary mode of Transportation. And if they can’t secure it, then they can’t be sure that they’ll still have it at the end of the day. So it’s incredibly important that we provide places where people can lock up their bikes.”
Correction, 3:41 a.m. Thursday: 15 miles of bike lanes, not 15 bike lanes.